CES 2009: Lots of new HD cameras on the way, no tape in sight.
It's a good time to be a home movie-loving home theater buff, since more and more high-def consumer camcorders are coming out every year. This CES has seen several new models from Samsung, Sony, and Panasonic, most of which are smaller, cheaper, or pack much more memory than the year before. MiniDV tapes might be a thing of the past for consumer HD camcorders; out of the dozen-or-so new models announced by the three companies, none of them use tape. Instead, these camcorders all use hard drive, removable flash memory, or built-in solid-state drives to hold their footage.
Samsung unveiled the HMX-H100, H104, H105, and H106 camcorders, svelte video cameras that rely solely on flash memory. The HMX-H100 records to SD and SDHC cards, and its bigger brothers feature SSD drives.The H104, H105, and H106 (pictured) pack 16-, 32-, and 64-gig flash memory drives respectively, letting users record up to 12 hours (with the H106) of HD footage at the camcorder's highest setting. They all have SDHC card slots, if you need just a little bit more recording time. All four models feature 2.2MP sensors and Schneider Kruznach lenses. The H100, H104, and H105 camcorders ship in March, and the H106 will be available in April. Samsung hasn't yet announced pricing for them.
Sony announced four new HD camcorders, all of which sport hefty hard drives for plenty of recording time. The Handycam HDR-XR100 features a 10x Carl Zeiss zoom lens with optical image stabilization and an 80GB hard drive that can record up to 30 hours of HD footage in LP mode. It also features face-detecting autofocus and Smile Shutter, a feature usually found on Sony's Cyber-shot digital cameras that lets the camcorder automatically take a still photo when a subject is smiling. Its step-up model, the HDR-XR200, features a 120GB hard drive, a 15x Carl Zeiss optical zoom, and a built-in GPS receiver for geotagging and navigation.
The HDR-XR500V and XR520V both get significant sensor upgrades, trading in the XR100 and XR200V's 4-megapixel sensors for Sony's new 12-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor. The XR500V has a 120GB hard drive, and the XR520V has a whopping 240GB hard drive, capable of storing over 100 hours of HD video in LP mode. All four camcorders ship in March, and will range from $750 for the XR100 to $1,500 for the XR520V.
Panasonic revealed six new HD camcorders, including a trio of three-chip models.The HDC-HS250, HS300, and TM300 use Panasonic's 3MOS system, a set of three 3-megapixel sensors in each model. Besides 1080i video, all three can capture 10MP still images, or 8MP stills while shooting video. The HS250 and HS300 use 120GB hard drives, while the TM300 features a 32GB solid state drive for storage. Besides the storage, all three cameras are virtually identical, save that the HS250 is slightly smaller and the HS300 and TM300 include a manual focus ring and electronic viewfinder.
Besides those three-chip camcorders, Panasonic showed off three entry-level models, the HS20, SD20, and TM20. These three models are simpler than the other three, with fewer manual options and less storage. The HS20 uses an 80GB hard drive, the TM20 features a 16GB SSD drive, and the SD20 features only a lone SD/SDHC card slot for storage. All six of Panasonic's new camcorders are compatible with the company's Viera Link interface; if you have a Panasonic Viera HDTV, you can connect your camcorder via HDMI and use the TV's remote to manage video playback. The six Panasonic camcorders ship in April, and will range from $600 for the SD20 to $1,400 for the HS300.
Flash memory, hard drives, and more flash memory. It's a good time to be into home videos, but it's not a good time to be a MiniDV tape. — Will Greenwald